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Boston Red Sox

AL East Preview: 5 Team Toss-Up

If the Tampa Bay Rays won the division, would you be surprised? With reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price towing the line, TB does what they’ve done every year since 2008: reload, relock and fire all over again. Starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto….Wait, I Made Up a Fake Name and I Chose Fausto?” Hernandez do what Matt Garza, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a half dozen others have done before them–step up, fill the new free agent void and dominate. The offense cobbles together enough runs with 3B Evan Longoria providing the middle order pop and OF Desmond Jennings and OF Wil Myers enjoying breakout seasons. The bullpen is put together with spit and dental floss (again), but somehow, pitching coach Jim Hoey and King Emperor manager Joe Maddon make it work. The Rays win their fourth playoff berth in six seasons, and their third division title.
 
If the Boston Red Sox won the division, would you be surprised? After a winter expunging the locker room sewage that took down a 90-win 2011 season, the Sox ride a resurgent Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey to the AL East crown, in spite of a offense that’s slightly above average, at best. The reason for it being even above par? OF Jacoby Ellsbury and 2B Dustin Pedroia look like a MVP candidates again, rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is the ROY and 3B Wil Middlebrooks enjoys a fully healthy season. Yes, the Red Sox miss DH David Ortiz, OF Shane Victorino and 1B Mike Napoli for large chunks of time to the DL (at their age, is it unexpected?), but the younger performers are able to keep them afloat. Despite the baggage of 2011 and 2012, Boston remembers they’re not too far removed from a 90+ win season, September collapse aside. They’re not heads and shoulders better than the other teams, but good enough to survive the gauntlet of the AL East.… Read more...

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Ryan Dempster to the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox get: SP Ryan Dempster

Ryan Dempster gets: 2 years, $26.5 million

And so concludes an understated, expensive and ultimately…effective offseason for the Boston Red Sox.

The BoSox have spent over $120 million dollars in the past month on new additions, doling out dual $39 million dollar deals for Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, a two year, $10 million dollar commitment to OF Jonny Gomes, as well as a one year, $4.5 million for reliever Koji Uehara. This of course, doesn’t take into account David Ortiz’s new two year, $26 million dollar deal. All in all, the Red Sox spent nearly $150 million this offseason, which is still seven figures less than what they traded out to the Dodgers last August.

There’s really no need to go over the blood-letting that’s gone on in New England in 2012–we’ve covered it extensively on this blog and this season’s edition of the Boston Red Sox was probably one of the most over-reported last place teams ever. However, with the freed up money they had from dealing Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto, Josh Beckett and Weekend at Crawford’s onto the Dodgers, GM Ben Cherington and company could splurge on the many holes created by their departures.

While all four of these deals weren’t particularly worthy of the money spent, there’s no doubt that these are four contributors that will shore up the reserves without the pressure of $100 million contracts bringing them down. In this particular case, Ryan Dempster will take that to his advantage.

At over $13 million a year, the proud Canadian right-hander isn’t a steal, but the length of his contract certainly is. Over his career as a starter, Dempster’s flipped between being an effective high strikeout and high contact pitcher and, well, a non-effective high contact, high strikeout pitcher. He’s either been able to harness his best and worst trait, which was personified by his 2012 season. While in Chicago playing for the Cubs, Dempster allowed only 81 hits and struck out 83 in 100 innings to the tune of a 2.25 ERA. However, after being traded to Chicago, he struck out more batters but also allowed more hits resulting a messy 5.09 ERA.

In Boston, there’s conflicting thoughts on if he’ll succeed. Dempster’s spent a majority of his career in hitter’s parks, between Arlington, Wrigley and Great American in Cincy. Fenway is a moderate park that doesn’t particularly give the advantage to the hitter or pitcher, but it’s certainly better than scorching Texas summers in August and sweltering Julys in Chi-town.

However, he’ll be facing AL East competition in most of his games this season, which shouldn’t be easy on a high contact 36 year old who’s moving to the AL for an entire season for the first time in his career. It’s difficult to say whether or not Dempster is the pitcher he was in Chicago or the batting practice meatballer he was in Texas. At his age, it’s easy to think that last summer’s bean ball session against the American League (not to mention his 2011 where he had a 4.80 ERA and walked 3.6 batters per nine innings) was just a sign of his decline.

Overall though, his potential was enough to take a relative flyer with just a two year commitment. It’s obvious that the Red Sox were going for more understated signings this offseason, preferring to go for players who would only require three year or less deals. Part of the reasoning had to be Boston’s many holes on the line-up sheet, which … Read more...

MLB Winter Meeting Wrap-Up – New Signings, Fact or Fiction?


The MLB winter meetings have adjourned, and even though OF Josh Hamilton and SP Zack Greinke–the two best free agents on the market–still remain unsigned, several key players made themselves some solid scratch joining new teams. 
Of course, we had our usual mixed bags of bone-head deals and virtuoso acquisitions. Some new contracts screamed “Fiction!”, while other ones roared “Fact”. That being said, let’s take a look at the best and worst signings–MAMBINO certified–of the MLB Winter Meetings.
FACT
Seattle Mariners get:  OF Jason Bay
Jason Bay gets: 1 year, $1 million (plus $2 million in incentives), another chance at relevancy
It’s no secret; Jason Bay could very well be finished as an everyday baseball player. After a monster year and a half in Boston where he hit 47 home runs with 46 additional extra-base hits and a 7th place MVP finish in 2009, Bay signed a 4-year, $66 million dollar contract with the pre-Mayan Disaster Mets. In the next three seasons, the Canadian outfielder had only 26 jakks and 47 extra-base hits, missing almost 200 games due to various injuries. The Mets, hurting for offensive talent in the worst way, thought they’d gain more by simply buying Bay out of his last contract year, and allowing younger, albeit more inexperienced and lower ceiling players to get reps instead. Essentially, the Mets paid Bay to go away, which is what I’ll say while I’m eating hay on this fine day.
After being hit with injury after injury, including a post-concussion symptoms and oblique issues, the now former Met reminded people more of MAMBINO whipping boy Endy Chavez than Jason Bay. However, he’s only 34 years old, has a keen batting eye and knows that this will be his last major league contract if he doesn’t produce. For the risk that the offense-strapped Mariners took, which is extremely low, this could end up paying huge dividends. From a sheer risk/reward ratio, this was a fantastic signing for Seattle.
FICTION
Anaheim Angels get: SP Joe Blanton
Joe Blanton gets: 2 years, $15 million, laughter of Phillies and Dodgers fans everywhere
Let’s be straight here; Joe Blanton isn’t terrible. He’s just wildly, incredibly, steadfastly mediocre. He’s thrown at least 175 innings every year of his career but one, but has averaged 200 innings on the whole. Blanton won’t wow you in any fashion: he’s strikes out a solid but unspectacular 6 per 9 innings and generally limits his walks to 2 per 9 innings. As was pointed out to me my ardent Halos fan and my Silver Screen and Roll colleague Ben, Blanton’s advance metrics point to the fact that his ERA wasn’t nearly as bad as his Dodgers’ mark of 4.99–he simply was unlucky. However, when you look at his numbers the pas
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Instant Trade Analysis: Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers get: 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford, IF Nick Punto

Boston Red Sox get: SP Rubby de la Rosa, OF Jerry Sands, IF Ivan de Jesus, 1B James Loney , SP Allen Webster

After the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold to a new ownership group including former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson, former Atlanta Braves President Stan Kasten and investor Mark Walter, Kasten repeated over and over that business in Chavez Ravine was going to change. For the past seven years, the team had been beset by management that didn’t have the capital to back up the massive responsibility that came with running a league institution like the Dodgers. Fans became disillusioned and bitter, and after several seasons of seeing the best players being eschewed from their dreams of playing in Dodger Blue because of bigger paychecks in not just places like New York and Boston, but Detroit and Milwaukee, simply stopped showing up to the Stadium.

From day one, Kasten repeated that the Dodgers would take their rightful place on the iron throne that they molded out of the ingenuity of Branch Rickey and the sweat of Peter O’Malley. Over and over, he said that the Dodgers would no longer operate like a small-market team whilst sitting in the middle of the nation’s second-biggest media market. Stan Kasten, with Magic’s infectious smile beaming a little bit brighter than usual, proclaimed that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the New York Yankees.

On Friday, August 24th, the Los Angeles Dodgers have become the New York Yankees.… Read more...

MLB Dog Days of Summer Check-in: How bad is it in Boston and Houston?

You know your perennial All-Star first baseman? He’s not turning it around. Hoping that your bullpen can start to hold down leads? It’s not happening. Praying that your center fielder is going to regain that sock in his bat? Switch religions. 

It’s the “dog days of summer”. If your team isn’t playing to how you thought they would, then what you see is what you got.  Baseball is over 100 games into its season, so hoping for a late season surge has gone from unlikely to damn near impossible. Sorry kids, time to start saying “well, there’s always next year.”
The only good to come out of this desolate section of the summer? The playoffs are right around the corner, and the herd is rapidly being thinned out. As the air has gotten thicker and the temperature has risen to record heights, teams throughout the league start dragging and the true core and character of your favorite squad has begun to rise to the top. We know who the contenders are, and sadly for some, who will be selecting in the upper half of the MLB draft next season. Over the next few days, MAMBINO will be taking a look at what has gone horribly wrong with some teams, but unsuspectingly right with others.

The Red Sox are nine games back of the Yankees in the AL East but only four and a half games back of the Tigers, Orioles and A’s for the Wild Card. They’re pretty far away from being dead in the water, but if you were to listen to the national media, you’d think that they were absolutely toasted. My first question is, in a season of incredible lows, what’s been the worst part of it for you as a Sox fan? And do you think that they can make the playoffs, and will make the playoffs?
 
Mr. Marquez: Before 2004, we lived by the same mantra as Cubs fans do today: “There’s always next season.” After 2004, things were never going to be the same for a whole generation of Red Sox fans. Nor should they be. The passion isn’t the same – the pain of a loss, the scrutiny of a manager, the anticipation of a Yankee game, the desire to be inside Fenway – it isn’t on the unhealthy obsessive level. When a goal has been accomplished, it’s easy to lose motivation.
Since then we have continued to be spoiled as a city. Four months after the Red Sox swept the Cardinals, Tom Brady won his third Super Bowl. Two years after that the Red Sox won again this time with a core that was younger and primed to be a perennial juggernaut. Jon Lester threw only 63 innings that year after beating cancer. Dustin Pedroia was an MVP in his second season. Jacoby Ellsbury was in his first year and didn’t start in center field until the World Series. Clay Buchholz was left off the post-season roster after throwing a no-hitter in his third career start. The Patriots became the first team to go undefeated since the Dolphins (hey, they made it to the Super Bowl, okay?). The Celtics acquired Ray Allen and KG and won immediately. The Bruins somehow even managed to sneak in and win a Cup two summers ago. And the Patriots made it to a fifth Super Bowl in eleven years – maybe the most impressive team accomplishment of the 21st Century.
When you are spoiled though, expectations do get higher. When Jonathan Papelbon blew the save and Evan Longoria hit the home run, it brought out comparisons of Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner. THAT wound opened up. The Red Sox blew a 9 game lead with only 27 left. Think about if Seattle came back to take the Wild Card right now. It wouldn’t be worse than what the Red Sox did last season. The moment that Longoria touched on home plate it was one of those 
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MAMBINO Fantasy Mondays: The Kevin Youkilis Non-Trade Fall-out

In the move that everyone saw coming, the Boston Red Sox finally traded Kevin Youkilis on Sunday. After rumors flew around fast and furious like a CC Sabathia batting practice, GM Ben Cherington shipped his third baseman to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Zach Stewart and utility man and First Team All-MLB Ugly member Brent Lillibridge.

The trade fallout has been discussed all over the internet: the deal has largely been called a great one for the White Sox, who get a former All-Star third baseman to man their MLB-worst hot corner, who hit to a combined .466 OPS. Boston has rookie Wil Middlebrooks handily playing third and mashing, so at this point, an unhappy Youkilis wasn’t doing any favors sulking in the BoSox locker room and creating an uncomfortable situation for everyone. RP Stewart was one of the main pieces Chicago got back in the Colby Rasmus/Edwin Jackson/Marc Rzepcynski deal with the Cardinals and Blue Jays last summer, but has so far not panned out on the South Side. He’ll be sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Lillibridge will largely serve in the same utility man capacity when on the White Sox.

The impact that this deal will have on both side is pretty clear: the White Sox get a formerly great hitter to play a position that was absolutely killing them day-to-day. On top of everything else, the Red Sox foot nearly $5.5 million of his salary, so unless Stewart turns into the next coming of Jonathan Papelbon, the White Sox largely gave up nothing for a guy who could potentially help them win the division. For Boston, this clears the way for Middlebrooks, and to a lesser extent DH David Ortiz and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, to play every day, and hopefully Stewart will be able to help a beleaguered Red Sox ‘pen down the line.

What’s more interesting though is how this trade impacts the teams that didn’t quite have enough to acquire Youkilis. According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Indians, Pirates and Braves were all involved in talks with Boston to some extent. Let’s take a look at how this non-move will affect these teams going down the line.


Los Angeles Dodgers

How badly did they need him? Pretty badly. The Dodgers third base situation has been tenuous from the onset, with offensive millstone Juan Uribe taking his historically bad season right into 2012. Adam Kennedy (.616 OPS), Elian Herrera (.716 OPS) and Ivan DeJesus (.708 OPS) have all taken their shots at the hot corner, with only Jerry Hairston (.821 OPS, .311 average in 36 games with 11 extra base hits) having any success there. However even Hairston, a lifetime utility man, can’t be counted on for production over the long term. LA has no third base prospects in the pipeline, and considering the cheap price the White Sox paid, it’s hard to believe that another game-changing third baseman will come along in a month that could potentially replicate Youkilis’ production (especially, keeping in mind that he’d be going from the AL East to the NL West).

So what do they do now? Jerry Hairston is the answer for the next month or so, but a very expensive (prospect-wise) inter-division trade for Chase Headley could be coming down the line.

Fantasy Spin: If you’re in a deep NL-only league, you’ve already got Jerry Hairston on your roster. I do think Headley is going right out of San Diego’s door in a month, as he won’t be under team control whenever they’re ready to compete. I’d most expect him to head to the Dodgers, but wouldnt’ be surprised if he g… Read more...

Josh Beckett makes Red Sox Nation Vomit

Strike a pose you POS!

…and who couldn’t be more happy than Yankee fans?

After coming off a season where Boston blew a playoff spot in the final day of the regular season, after we learned that the funky smell coming out of the Red Sox clubhouse was the remnants of fried chicken and beer, and in a week where longtime PA dude Carl Beane passed away, Josh Beckett decided to violently tug on the heartstrings of Massachusetts and beyond.

If you haven’t heard, Beckett was pulled from his start last week, with manager Bobby Valentine explaining the move to be a result of “tightness in [Beckett’s] lat muscle.” The very next day, Beckett was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, as an observer saw him and teammate Clay Butthole shooting the ish on the golf course.

Beckett returned to the mound last night to face the Cleveland Indians in front of the Fenway faithful, registering a quite fantastic line:

2.1 innings pitched
7 hits
7 earned runs
2 strikeouts
2 walks
2 home runs allowed

That’s 1 earned run per out. FAN-tastic. And it got worse, as Beckett displayed an utter disregard for the questions at his post-game press conference:

LET’S GO YANKEES (clap clap, clap clap clap)

@TheGreatMambinoRead more...

Other things that happened last night besides the Red Sox Collapse

Some other things happened last night besides the Red Sox collapse. It’s going to be covered to death today, so my thoughts on it are not unlike anyone else’s. But yes, other events happened that didn’t involve Jonathan Papelbon blowing a save with two outs and two strikes, Jon Lester seeing a fantastic pitching performance turning into a no decision and Ryan Lavarnway hitting into a double play with the bases juiced in the top of the 9th inning. I mean, there were other men playing baseball besides Derek Jeter 2.0, though his mother still probably calls him “Robert Andino”, who figuratively, emotionally and physically punched Red Sox Nation in the gut. Seriously, other games occurred that was not the one in Baltimore, where the 69-93 Orioles were complicit in one of the worst collapses in the 100 plus year history of baseball. I’m not joking everyone – there was more than the 20th loss of the month for the Red Sox, leading to them relinquishing a lead on the wild card once unheard of, even by the brightest minds in the blogosphere. Hopefully you got the point – the Red Sox lost. Let’s go down a list:

1. The Atlanta Braves replicating the Red Sox in the National League

On September 1st, the Red Sox held an 8.5 game lead on the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card. On that same day, the Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card.

The Braves, in similar fashion to the Red Sox, blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning with an All-Star closer on the mound. Fortunately for the Braves, their loss occurred an hour before the Red Sox loss, and became 2nd half hour Sportscenter fodder when compared with the game in Baltimore. The Braves’ demise is just as incredible as the Red Sox, but without most of the press. It’s really a shame that their terrible play and incredible collapse won’t be written about as much as it should be because of the incredible game in Tampa and the media crush on the Sox. The Braves deserve the same scrutiny and soul-crushing Pedro Gomez sit-down interviews that the Red Sox will endure over the next few months.

What was most surprising about the Braves was how devoid of energy the team was. With the exception of Tim Hudson, Dan Uggla and surprisingly Kris Medlen, those 25 guys looked like they knew they were going to lose that game. As MAMBINO correspondent and Braves fan numero The King pointed out to me, there was never a minute last night where you thought the Braves were going to win. Playing a Phillies team that had dominated them this month, a usually ice-blooded Craig Kimbrel looked petrified up there trying (and failing to) nail down a save. Freddie Freeman took his ABs as if he knew that a double play was coming. Every swing that Jason Heyward took had “pop out” written all over it. The Braves played scared, they played weak and they played like they had already lost. They deserve all the criticism the Red Sox are getting, and will unfortunately dodge a good portion of it.

2. Matt Kemp almost had a 40/40 season

Matt Kemp very nearly had the triple crown this year, leading the NL in homers and RBI, but not average (coming in third to Jose Reyes and then Ryan Braun). But with that out of reach with only two games left to play, Kemp realized that a 40 homer/40 steal season (done by only 4 other players EVER) was still possible.

Kemp’s first two ABs of the night didn’t go well – he got hit by a pitch and meekly grounded out to shortstop. The outlook of a 40/40 season became bleaker by the pitch. The game got out of reach for t… Read more...

The Red Sox are making MAMBINO look bad – and other MLB notes

Not more than a week ago did I proclaim that nearly all the division races over and done with. In fact, I said that this is probably the least competitive second half in MLB history. And now the Red Sox are messing up my universe.

The Wild Card leader Red Sox have gone onto lose 10 out of their last 13, including the last 5 straight to their Wild Card runner-up Tampa Bay. The lead was 7 games on Friday. It’s 3.5 on Monday.

Could this happen? Could we perhaps be witnessing an epic Mets-ian collapse from the Sox? 3.5 games with 16 to play, including 4 against the Rays at Fenway Park? It’s no longer out of the question. Had the Sox taken one out of the four games at the Trop this past weekend, I’d say it’s a long shot. But the deficit is mountable.

Scarily enough, this matchup isn’t going to come down to starting pitching; I’d set the bar at relatively even. The Red Sox have a Lackey-Wakefield-Bedard crap salad appetizer in front of the Jon Lester and the ailing Josh Becket entree (that sounded way too NSFW for my tastes, but I really wanted to fit “crap salad” into a post today), while Tampa throws out the young vets in Price and Shields, but followed with Hellickson (who is 18 innings over his previous career high already), Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and Matt Moore, who have the four of which have a combined 8 innings of postseason pressure-filled innings. The matchup isn’t about offense either; the Sox have a definite edge, but it doesn’t matter if you score 6 runs a game when John Lackey is giving up 7 per start. Also, with Desmond Jennings playing like we always thought BJ Upton should have, BJ Upton playing like he knows Desmond Jennings is taking his job, and the rest of the Rays offense waking up at the right time, the deficit between Tampa and Boston isn’t nearly as pronounced as a month ago. What’s left? The pen.

It might come down to Kyle effing Farnsworth and a 35-year old journeyman named Joel Peralta. Tampa’s pen was absolutely decimated by free agency last year, and with the genius of Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey, have taken the otherwise lifeless and witless corpses from the scrap pile and made them into respectable baseball players. All things considered equal at this point, it’s basically if the Red Sox offense can trump the Tampa Bay pen. I know it’s much more complicated than this, but to distill the argument down to it’s basic elements, it’s David Ortiz vs. Kyle Farnsworth. I’m obviously picking the Sox to win the Wild Card. But not by much.

______________________________________

– Jose Valverde somehow has somehow saved 45 consecutive games, dating back to the end of last season. He is 9 away from tying Tom Gordon’s consecutive saves record of 54, but still 30 away from touching Eric Gagne’s completely clean and steroid-bereft consecutive saves record of 84 games.

– Which one of these lines would you take if you had to pick a Cy Young winner based on numbers alone?

A. 17-5, 204 K, 29 BB, 1.05 WHIP, .243 Batting Avg Against, 9 HR, 210.2 innings pitched
B. 18-5, 231 K, 51 BB, 1.00 WHIP, .210 Batting Avg Against, 13 HR, 213.2 innings pitched
C. 16-7, 211 K, 42 BB, 1.03 WHIP, .227 Batting Avg Against, 15 HR, 210.2 innings pitched

Pretty even all around. Incredible seasons. You made your choice?

A is Roy Halladay, C is Cliff Lee and B is Clayton Kershaw. I had B. Not just because I am a homer. I’m an incredible homer. But the choice is Clayton. Handle it.

– Speaking of homer-ism, I’ve covered … Read more...